Game Day Capsule - MW Tournament Semifinal
By W.G. Ramirez
March 14, 2014
LAS VEGAS - No. 4 UNLV (20-12, 11-8 Mountain West) vs. No. 1 San Diego State (28-3, 16-2)
WHEN: Friday 6 p.m.
TV: CBS Sports Network
RADIO: ESPN Radio 1100/98.9 FM
SEASON SERIES: San Diego State swept the regular-season series, winning by 11 on Jan. 18 in San Diego, 63-52, and on March 5 in Las Vegas, 73-64.
KEY PLAYERS: UNLV: Dejean-Jones (13.7 ppg.), Birch (11.7 ppg., 10.1 rpg., 3.7 bpg.) and Smith (11.2 ppg. 11.1 rpg.) SDST: Thames (16.9 ppg., 3.1 apg., 39.6 3FG%), Davis (8 ppg., 10.0 rpg.), Shepard (12.3 ppg., 5.2 rpg.)
KEY FACTOR in this game for UNLV: Bryce Dejean-Jones rose to the occasion in the quarterfinals against Wyoming, coming off the bench to score 22 points, to lead the Runnin' Rebels to a 71-67 win. The Runnin' Rebels will need their star guard to upstage San Diego State's star guard, league player of the year Xavier Thames.
KEY FACTOR in this game for San Diego State: Cleaning the glass is essential for the Aztecs, as they'll want to limit the Runnin' Rebels' second-chance opportunities. San Diego State's aggressive defensive nature could force the Rebels to make poor shot selections, so it's up to Josh Davis to bang with Roscoe Smith and Khem Birch to get rebounds.
NOTABLE: UNLV, which has an all-time record of 56-17 (.767) in conference tournament play, improved to 13-1 all-time in the quarterfinals of the MW Tournament. Its lone loss, ironically, came in 2009 to tonight's opponent - San Diego State. The Runnin' Rebels, who are 2-5 against the Aztecs all-time in MW Tournament play, have lost four straight to San Diego State in the event. And while the Aztecs are 2-0 versus UNLV in the MW semifinals, the Runnin' Rebels are 8-4 all-time in the semifinals.
UNLV COACH Dave Rice: On San Diego State - "As soon as the Wyoming game ended, we started thinking about San Diego State. They're a fantastic offensive rebounding team, they're so well balanced. They’ve got a group that's experienced. I’ve got so much respect for Xavier Thames and Josh Davis - two fifth-year seniors that provide leadership. They've got guys who come off the bench who understand their roles and do their jobs."
Biggest Concerns - "Their offensive rebounding is a huge factor, making sure we handle their backcourt pressure. But the biggest thing is the health of Khem Birch because you know how important Khem is to our team."
Biggest Confidence - "The fact we're a resilient group that has always bounced back from adversity. Just like the adversity of last week playing without Roscoe Smith for the entire week and then having the Bryce Dejean-Jones suspension and losing two games and coming up against a team that we knew would be difficult to play against in Wyoming, but we bounced back and fought our way to a victory."